Ten Ways to Optimize Your Marketing Budget
Have you been asked to cut your marketing budget? Or are you feeling rumblings inside your organization of a coming shift?
Watch the headlines. Businesses, especially in the tech sector, are afraid. After a booming 2021 and early 2022, companies in the U.S. tech sector are now shedding workers. As of mid-October, more than 44,000 workers have been cut. [Crunchbase]
Slashing marketing expenditures, however, is a knee-jerk reaction. Company leaders are undoubtedly asking, “Why talk about yourself when there are more vital business interests?” Google slashed their own marketing budget at the height of the pandemic. The UK government urged businesses to reduce prices by cutting their marketing spending. Fitness megabrand Peloton is making the marketing cut. The opening line to AdWeek’s article is telling (emphasis added):
“After a year of financial struggles, and deeper recessionary fears looming, Peloton is seeking to get its bottom line in shape with a familiar tactic for tough times: It’s issuing massive budget cuts — starting with the marketing department.”
You’re not alone. You’re not the first to have to make these cuts. We will outline ten ways you can get the most out of a smaller budget and grow your business at the same time.
Whether you’ve already been asked to make cuts, you want to get ahead of the curve, or you’re planning for the next quarter or year, this article will help you move forward.
Why Marketing Makes Sense in Odd Economic Times
In reality, studies dating back 100 years demonstrate that maintaining (or even increasing) marketing efforts during weaker economies is the better decision.
To paraphrase an age-old adage, “When times are good you should market. When times are bad you must market.”
Why you should continue to invest in marketing right now:
- Noise in your product category may drop as your competitors pull back. If you continue your current efforts, you will become “louder” and gain more market share.
- You will appear stable while the market around you scrambles
- Advertising costs will trend down. You can spend less but still have a strong impact.
What might happen if you pull back too far:
- You will lose mindshare of your existing market. Without you making noise, you will be forgotten.
- You open a space for a competitor or start-up to invade. Business abhors a vacuum.
10 Ways to Maximize Your Marketing Spending
When building your marketing strategy, two concepts will poison your efforts: hope and want. But no matter how hard you try, when times are good and growth is building, these two ideas creep in. Now that you need to optimize your budget, you need to eradicate them. You can’t say, “I hope this works” when you’ve got to trim the budget. You can’t afford to say, “I want to try…” when every cent counts.
These ten activities will narrow your focus, optimize the time and energy you’re investing in your marketing, and drive your business forward.
1. Study Your Data
Your data contains the answers. It will show you what’s working and what’s not. So before you do anything else, you need to analyze your data.
Who are the best data analysts on your team? Book time with them now to go over the information. Consider these questions together:
- What pages on your website receive the most traffic?
- What pages on your website, other than landing pages, have the highest bounce rates?
- Which emails have the highest click through rates in the last six months? Three months?
- Which ads have the highest conversion rates?
- Which social posts have had the highest engagement?
- What other content (e.g., video, podcasts, etc.) has been getting noticed?
The answers to these questions are the topics you need to discuss more. These are the assets you need to leverage.
2. Amplify Your Best Performing Content
The content you highlighted above needs to be optimized and multiplied.Consider these efforts:
- Make sure every high-performing page has a conversion point.
- Pull at least three quotes from each article for social posts.
- Build email nurture campaigns that follow up on those who download your most popular material.
3. Focus Your Email Efforts on Your Most Engaged Contacts
Inbound marketing theory encourages us all to remember that a sale happens when the right lead has the right need at the right time. Many of us continue to email to and nurture prospects for whom, we assume, this is not the right time.
During tighter economic times when every marketing penny matters, don’t spend time reaching out to cold prospects. If they haven’t opened, clicked, or replied in the last three months, ignore them for a while.
This move allows you to speak more directly to those that are engaging.
4. Fire Someone Today
Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, created an analogy that is now quoted by many business leaders. “If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.”
Now is the time to “get the wrong people off the bus.” If you’ve been contemplating a realignment of your marketing team or if you’ve got team members that aren’t pulling their weight, now is the time to course correct.
5. Create More Brand Awareness
As mentioned above, your brand voice will become louder in a tight economy. Forrester warns against cutting brand awareness efforts. In a profound analysis worth reading, principal analyst Karen Tran writes, “Building trust with brands doesn’t happen overnight. Trust increases over time and is a relationship of connection, credibility, and reliability. The long-term impact of cutting brand investments could take years to rebuild — that’s right: years.”
Don’t just focus on demand generation tactics. Publish brand awareness pieces to maintain your foothold in the market.
6. Pivot Away from Your Competitors
Many of your competitors will have the knee-jerk reaction to pull away from marketing, but some will continue marketing. Therefore, look for opportunities. For example, if your competitor pours more money into ads, don’t go head to head with them. Maintain your ad buy, but dramatically pick up the pace on social media
7. Ask for Referrals
If you don’t yet have one, now is the essential time to put a process in place to ask for referrals as you do your work with your customers. Those currently paying your invoices will always be the greatest marketing messages. Ask for referrals early and often.
8. Cut Unused Software Tools
We all have software tools and subscriptions we aren’t using or that duplicate the features of another. Get rid of them. It’s not a lot of money per month, but it shows you’re cutting the budget and it will have the added benefit of simplifying your processes.
The converse is also true: maximize the use of the software tools you keep. Stop doing so many manual and individual tasks outside of the software tools. These tools are designed to reduce the number of person hours. Go all in. Most tools allow for communication and collaboration.
9. Maximize Your Relationship with an Agency
Agencies can help you stretch your marketing dollars in general. If you’re not working with an agency right now, one of the biggest cost savings techniques you could deploy is to hire one.
If you are working with an agency currently or start working with one now, make sure you are not spending extra money when you don’t have to.
- Make sure you define your singular objective. Don’t be nebulous with an agency.
- Discuss the division of labor. What will your team do? What will the agency do?
- Reduce the frequency of meetings and the number of people involved.
- Only ask the agency to do the things you cannot do.
10. Communicate More Numbers to the C-Suite
Marketing is the “translation layer” between your market and senior leadership. As a marketing executive, your job is to help the C-Suite more deeply understand your customer. You must connect the dots from how prospects first hear about your solution to the buying decision. The numbers you show and stories you tell will help them understand why marketing is essential to future growth.
Are you presenting the best KPIs? Are you addressing their fears?
The First Thing to Do After Reading This Article
Your to-do list is long. Your email inbox is full. Nevertheless, stop long enough to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Start with the data, but listen to your team as well. Only then will you be ready to optimize your marketing budget without hurting business growth.